A Christian man extends support as he chose to stay on guard outside the mosque while they prayed. This is exactly what the world needs.
It was a devastating Friday and a weekend of mourning as a massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, has left the world in shock. With 49 Muslim worshippers dead and over 50 others seriously wounded, it is a tragedy that has caused heartbreak and sorrow. In fact, this tragedy urged people of all faiths to stand with their Muslim neighbors in support.
When Andrew Graystone, a devout Christian heard this harrowing news, he immediately knew that he wanted to offer his friendship in the face of fear. His act of kindness went viral, inspiring others to respond the same way.
Graystone is a man who operates a Christian charity and was the person who led London's 2012 multi-faith chaplaincy team. So it certainly isn't surprising that he was spotted outside the Medina Mosque in Manchester, England on Friday sporting words that will bring a smile to your face.
Taking to Twitter, he posted a photo of him standing with a sign saying, “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.”
Speaking to BBC, he said that the Muslims who were walking into the mosque to begin their prayers, “beamed” and “smiled” when they saw his gesture.
"There are two ways you can respond to an attack like this—you can respond with fear or you can respond with friendship,..." he said. He even gave his motivation for standing outside the mosque and continued "...so I thought I would go to my local mosque and make it clear I saw the people there as friends."
DC Jews just appearing outside downtown mosque at midday prayer. Someone posted on Facebook and strangers just showing up pic.twitter.com/wVYLDqwgYT— Michelle Boorstein (@mboorstein) March 15, 2019
In conversation with Metro UK, he said, "I woke up this morning and heard the terrible news about the mosques in New Zealand and I thought what it would feel like if you were a British Muslim going to Friday prayers today, wondering whether you would feel like you might be under attack."
The reason he's so aware of this - he belongs to a local church in Levenshulme, Greater Manchester, which is "a very mixed and multicultural area where there could easily be tension but there doesn’t have to be if we choose friendship instead." It's why he has "lots of things in common" with Muslims in his community.
In my church this morning we stood and prayed for our Muslim brothers and sisters in Manchester, in Christchurch and around the world.— Andrew Graystone (@AndrewGraystone) March 17, 2019
Shalom. Salaam. Peace pic.twitter.com/687dAFjgcn
As for the response he got with his kind words, he said "I got such a warm welcome. I think when people first arrived at the mosque, some of them thought 'Oh no, there’s a protester' but as soon as they saw my notice and my smiley face they realized I was there as a friend. When people came out of the mosque there was such a warmth and lots of people wanted to shake my hand, and they sent me away with some chicken biryani so that’s a win all round."
So I was deeply honoured to meet @AndrewGraystone at the BBC who stood outside a Mosque on Friday in #manchester with this sign. I give him a hug, thanked him and made a friend. #OneLove #ChristchurchMosqueShooting #NewZealandTerroristAttack pic.twitter.com/M7hEwwVr8u— Mohammed Shafiq (@mshafiquk) March 16, 2019
"I hadn't intended for anybody other than the people at Medina Mosque to know about this," he told the BBC. "But I guess there are little things that lots of people can do to just express friendship rather than fear with Muslim friends, and neighbors and colleagues — so I just took one little action," he added.
He even wrote in a tweet on Friday morning, "Can I suggest that Christians and others who are available gather outside their local mosque during Friday prayers today (about 12-1) to stand guard over our Muslim friends while they pray?"
Can I suggest that Christians and others who are available gather outside their local mosque during Friday prayers today (about 12-1) to stand guard over our Muslim friends while they pray?— Andrew Graystone (@AndrewGraystone) March 15, 2019
The Imam (position of Islamic leadership) of the mosque, Zafar Iqbal, told Metro UK that he mentioned Graystone's touching gesture during the Friday prayers. He said, "We believe most of the people in this country are loving and respectful."
"The people that do these things [refererring to the shooting] are a minority in society. They are evil and have no religion."
"When the worshipers went outside they started clapping him [Graystone]. Everyone was saying thank you very much."
Well, to Graystone's act of kindness, we say thank you as well. Not just that, people all around are following in his footsteps. He proves to us that religion isn't about fighting over whose is the best, it's about coming together to be there in times of need. Because that is the basis of every religion, that we embrace our true humanity and treat everyone as equal.